Pasco Sheriff: 900 victimized in stolen mail case

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. - More than 900 victims have been identified in a case involving some 3,000 pieces of stolen mail, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

The mail thefts occurred in Pasco, Pinellas, Hernando and Hillsborough Counties, deputies say.

"We are just scratching the surface," said Sheriff Chris Nocco.

It is not clear how many people were victimized and how many more victims are out there that deputies don't know about.

A Pasco County detective recently watched as Brian Michael Chipman, 30, stopped briefly in front of homes with his headlights off and license plates removed, deputies say.

The car he was driving was traced and found to be a Budget rental car. Inside the vehicle, investigators found "multiple pieces of mail" containing check books, credit cards bank statements, social security numbers and other documents containing personal information.

It's believed that Chipman, and possibly others, were involved in check fraud, credit card fraud, tax fraud, and identity theft.

Chipman's girlfriend, Shelly Johnson, was also arrested in connection with the mail thefts.

Sheriff Nocco told ABC Action News Chipman and Johnson were recorded on jailhouse phone calls talking about how they needed to have another bonfire to burn the mail.

In the back Chipman's car, detectives say they found multiple gas cans.

Deputies believe the recent spike in mail thefts being reported is due to it being tax season and people receiving confidential information in the mail.

Detectives are now working with other law enforcement agencies to identify victims in their jurisdictions.

"Whatever jurisdiction, whatever county you live in, please notify that sheriff's office if there was anything missing," Nocco explained.

"And right now you may not know you are a victim but if you check your credit report, if you go online and something doesn't seem right, notify your local sheriff's office."

U.S. Postal inspectors are also now working the case. 

"Get a credit report, go back through your bank statements for the past few months, make sure there aren't any weird charges, unauthorized checks against your account," explained Sgt. Justin Ross, with the economic crimes unit.

Chipman, described as a career criminal by the Sheriff, has an arrest record stemming back to 2002 for charges ranging from aggravated battery and burglary.

Chipman was booked into the Land O' Lakes Detention Center where he was held on $10,000 bond.

Johnson was booked into the Land O'Lakes Detention Center where she is being held on $10,000 bond.

 

Johnson is charged with evidence tampering and being in the possession of another person's identity without consent.
 

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